Valentine’s Day history explained

Valentine’s Day is celebrated every Feb. 14 as couples across the world honor their spouses, partners and lovers from all social classes.

The chubby baby with wings and a bow and an arrow, called Cupid, has been associated with Valentine’s Day for centuries. However, before he was renamed Cupid, he was known to the ancient Greeks as Eros, the God of Love. Eros, the son of Greek goddess Aphrodite, would use two sets of arrows: one directed towards love and another one meaning hate, simply to play with the emotions of his targets. It was not until stories of his mischief were told by Romans that he adopted the childlike appearance that we recognize today.

For Valentine’s Day, people often give their sweethearts flowers or candy. Giving a box of candy started in the 19th century, when Richard Cadbury, who came from a British chocolate manufacturing family, encouraged people to buy chocolates as part of the beloved holiday.

According to the Washington Post, the use of “X” came to represent Christianity, or the cross, in the Middle Ages. During those times, the symbol was used to sign off on documents. After marking with an X, the writer would kiss the mark as a sign of their oath towards whomever they are writing to. As the gesture grew among kings and commoners to certify books, letters and paperwork, these records were described as having been “sealed with a kiss.”

In addition to the United States, Valentine’s Day is celebrated in Australia, Canada, France, Great Britain and Mexico. Around the 17th century, Great Britain began their Valentine’s Day tradition of exchanging Valentines. Colonists began exchanging these hand-made Valentines in the early 1700s. Then, by the 18th century, it was very common for friends and spouses and such to exchange small tokens, such as handwritten notes. By the time the 1900s rolled around, printed cards began to replace written letters due to improvements in printing technology. Cheaper postage rates also contributed to an increase in the popularity of sending Valentine’s Day greetings. Today, according to Greeting Card Association, an estimated 145 million Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year, making Valentine’s Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year.